Bridging Cultures: My Journey from India to Japan



In this blog post, I want to share my experiences and thoughts from living in two distinct yet fascinating countries – India and Japan. My journey began in Indore, India, where I was born and raised until the age of 21. After completing my Electrical and Electronics Engineering degree from IIT Bombay, I moved to Japan and lived there until the age of 27. As I prepare to move back to India next week, my emotions are strong, and I find myself reflecting on the similarities and differences between the two cultures that have shaped my life.

Growing up, I was always good at math and had a keen interest in gadgets and technology, which led me to pursue higher education at IIT Bombay, India’s premier technology institute. My fascination with Japanese technology and culture grew as I immersed myself in anime and listened to stories about the country’s technological advancements. Encouraged by friends, I took the leap and moved to Japan, where I learned the language and delved into both traditional and modern aspects of Japanese culture.

During my six years in Japan, I had the opportunity to work on cutting-edge projects in autonomous driving, robotics, and artificial intelligence. Now, as I prepare to return to India at the age of 28, I want to share my insights and observations by comparing these two countries that have been an integral part of my life.

japan nature river 1
India nature lake castle

Cultural Values: Celebrating Similarities and Acknowledging Differences

India and Japan are both rich in culture and heritage, with diverse religious landscapes playing significant roles in daily life. India is known for its religious diversity, including Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Christianity, Buddhism, and more. In contrast, Japan primarily follows Shinto and Buddhist traditions. Both countries share cultural values such as respecting elders, practicing hospitality, and removing shoes before entering homes. Interestingly, the concept of “seva” (or “sewa”), which originated from Sanskrit, is present in both Hindi and Japanese (世話) languages, representing the act of selfless service or taking care of others.

In India, people are generally more direct and open about their thoughts, while in Japan, individuals may hold back their opinions or express them passively to avoid causing offense or discomfort. Japanese society emphasizes adherence to rules and community reliance, while Indians often depend more on personal connections and resourcefulness to address problems.

Both countries value order and harmony, but Indian society may be more lenient with deviations from rules as long as they don’t negatively impact others. Japanese cities are known for their safety, even at late hours, while in India, vigilance about one’s surroundings and thorough planning are crucial.

Spirituality and religion play significant roles in both countries. India is known for its rich religious diversity, with a multitude of faiths practiced, including Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Christianity, Buddhism, and more. In contrast, Japan primarily follows Shinto and Buddhist traditions. Both cultures embrace the importance of rituals, temples, and festivals in daily life.

India and Japan have rich artistic traditions, with India boasting diverse forms of dance, music, and textiles and Japan excelling in disciplines such as tea ceremony, calligraphy, and ikebana (flower arrangement). Both cultures possess unique aesthetic sensibilities that reflect their respective histories and values.

Social hierarchy has deep historical roots in both countries, with India’s caste system and Japan’s class divisions. Initially, India’s caste system, known as Varna, aimed to promote productivity and respect for different roles and duties within society. It was intended to be a flexible system that allowed for social mobility based on an individual’s abilities and achievements. However, over time, it evolved into the more rigid and discriminatory Jati system, which restricted opportunities and perpetuated inequalities among different social groups.

Japan’s historical class divisions were characterized by distinct roles for samurai, farmers, artisans, and merchants. The values of dedication, loyalty, and respect for hierarchy, which were emphasized in the samurai class, have carried over to modern Japanese work culture, evident in the strong emphasis on teamwork, harmony, and consensus-building in Japanese workplaces. Additionally, the artisan and merchant classes’ focus on craftsmanship and customer service has translated into a strong work ethic and commitment to quality and excellence in modern Japan. However, the rigidity of Japan’s historical class system created a social hierarchy where certain groups, such as the Burakumin and the Ainu, faced discrimination and limited opportunities, an issue that continues to persist in some aspects of contemporary Japanese society.

In contemporary society, the impact and manifestations of these systems have evolved, with both countries making efforts to dismantle discriminatory practices and promote equality and social justice. India has introduced affirmative action policies, such as reservations in education and employment, to uplift marginalized communities and dismantle the adverse effects of the caste system. Legal measures have been implemented to protect individuals from caste-based discrimination, and social reformers and activists continue to raise awareness and challenge prejudices.

Despite ongoing challenges, both countries continue to strive for social harmony and inclusivity, working to address the historical impact of social hierarchies while promoting a more equitable future. By learning from their past and implementing progressive policies, India and Japan are taking steps to create a more just and inclusive society for future generations.

Attitude toward time is another contrasting aspect between the two cultures. Indian culture tends to have a more relaxed attitude toward punctuality, often referred to as “Indian Standard Time.” In contrast, Japanese culture highly values punctuality and time management, with trains and appointments often adhering to strict schedules.

Language and Communication: Navigating the Complexities of Japanese

Before relocating to Japan, I familiarized myself with the basics of the Japanese language, learning the Hiragana and Katakana scripts through the YouTube channel Japanese101 by Risa. However, my proficiency in the language truly grew after moving to Japan. I received initial lessons from dedicated teachers at my company and then honed my skills further through daily interactions in a predominantly Japanese-speaking society. After three years, I was able to pass the JLPT N2, which certifies a business-level proficiency in Japanese.

Upon deeper learning, I discovered that Japanese grammar structure is more akin to that of Indian languages than it is to English. This similarity provided me with a sense of familiarity and eased the learning process. The pronunciation was also manageable for me as an Indian because all the phonetic sounds in Japanese also exist in my native language, Hindi.

The real challenge, however, lay in mastering Kanji, the complex system of adopted Chinese characters used in written Japanese. I found it fascinating that my Chinese and Taiwanese friends could comprehend written Japanese with ease due to their familiarity with these characters. In contrast, while I was fluent in spoken Japanese, reading it proved to be a significant challenge due to the intricacies of Kanji. This experience highlighted to me the diverse intricacies and challenges inherent in learning a new language.

Food and Cuisine: Savoring Flavors and Adapting to New Tastes

As someone with particular taste preferences, I experienced quite a culinary journey while living in Japan. While Indians are generally known for their love of spicy food, I never indulged in extremely spicy dishes like some of my friends and family. In contrast, Japanese cuisine is notably milder, with minimal use of spices. What the Japanese consider spicy is often less intense than what I was accustomed to back in India.

During my time in Japan, I spent two years in Osaka, a city famous for its delicious food. I developed a fondness for local dishes like Okonomiyaki and Takoyaki, which quickly became some of my favorites. While Indian restaurants exist in Japan, they offer only a small fraction of the vast variety of dishes available in India.

One of the challenges I faced in Japan was the limited availability of vegetarian food. Japanese cuisine typically incorporates meat or fish in every meal, whereas, in India, I used to consume meat only once a month on special occasions. Back home, finding vegetarian food was never an issue, and food packaging would clearly indicate if a product contained non-vegetarian ingredients with red and green marks. In Japan, however, vegetarian options were scarcer, and identifying them required more effort.

I also appreciated the user-friendly design of Japanese food packaging, which made opening and accessing the contents remarkably easy and convenient. The attention to detail in Japanese food presentation and packaging is an excellent example of the country’s dedication to providing excellent customer experiences.

Education and Work Culture: Embracing the Japanese Work Ethic and Learning Valuable Skills

The education and work cultures in India and Japan are distinct, each with its own unique characteristics and challenges. In India, the focus on education is intense, with students often competing fiercely for limited seats in prestigious institutions like the IITs. The curriculum is more theory-based, with an emphasis on rote learning and examinations. This system allowed me to develop strong problem-solving and analytical skills, which were instrumental in my success.

Japanese education, on the other hand, emphasizes a more holistic approach, with a focus on group activities, practical learning, and character development. This system fosters creativity, teamwork, and social responsibility, which are essential for success in Japan’s collaborative work culture.

During my time in Japan, I had the opportunity to work in a traditional company where every employee was required to participate in various activities, reflecting the Japanese work culture’s unique aspects. For example, all employees, including managers, were expected to clean the office room once a week. A bell would ring at 8:25 am, signaling the start of a routine exercise session set to music, which everyone was familiar with. Each month, different groups were assigned tasks such as organizing common storage spaces, patrolling for potential accident hazards, and checking medical kits and fire control measures.

This workplace also emphasized the 5S methodology, a system developed in Japan and now used worldwide in management. There were occasional inspections to ensure that everyone’s workspace was tidy as part of practicing 5S. Additionally, we had weekly 15-minute meetings where employees would discuss potential accident scenarios, particularly on roads, and brainstorm ways to prevent them.

The work culture in Japan is known for its strong emphasis on loyalty, dedication, and hierarchy. These values, which have their roots in Japan’s historical class divisions, manifest in a commitment to teamwork, harmony, and consensus-building. Employees are expected to work long hours, with overtime being a common practice. The Japanese work ethic places great importance on punctuality, attention to detail, and quality, which are reflected in the country’s impressive technological advancements and reputation for excellence.

In contrast, the work culture in India is more diverse, with a mixture of traditional and modern approaches. While Indian workplaces value hierarchy and respect for authority, they also encourage individualism and innovation. Work hours tend to be more flexible, and there is a greater emphasis on striking a work-life balance. The Indian work culture has also been influenced by globalization and the rapid growth of the technology sector, leading to the adoption of more progressive practices and a focus on adaptability.

Of course, experiences may vary depending on the company and individual, but during my time in Japan, I worked on various projects related to autonomous driving, robotics, and artificial intelligence. These experiences allowed me to appreciate the nuances of Japanese work culture and develop valuable skills that I can bring back to India. As I prepare to return home, I am eager to apply what I have learned and contribute to the growth and development of my own country.

Nature and Urban Spaces: Discovering the Beauty of India and Japan

India and Japan boast diverse natural and urban landscapes to explore. In India, I spent my childhood in Indore, followed by four years in Mumbai for university. I have travelled extensively across the country, with the northeastern states, including Sikkim, my favourite. In Japan, I moved at the age of 22 and have since lived in various cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, and Saitama. My Japanese adventures have taken me to the heart of bustling downtown areas as well as the serene countryside, with beautiful mountains and rivers.

Some of the remarkable places I visited in Japan include Tottori, Hiroshima, the rabbit island of Ōkunoshima, Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, Okayama, Tokushima in Shikoku, Tochigi, Mount Fuji, various amusement parks, Kanagawa, and more. The convenience and safety of travelling in Japan make it easy to explore the country, although it is more expensive than in India.

From the vibrant markets of Delhi and the peaceful backwaters of Kerala in India to the serene temples of Kyoto and the energetic streets of Tokyo in Japan, each country offers a unique travel experience. Appreciating the beauty and diversity of these nations’ natural and urban spaces has been a highlight of my time living in both India and Japan.


In conclusion, my journey from India to Japan has been an enriching and insightful experience, filled with invaluable lessons and memories. Through exploring cultural values, language and communication, food and cuisine, education and work culture, and nature and urban spaces, I have developed a deep appreciation for the unique aspects of both countries.

As I prepare to return to India, I am grateful for the opportunities and personal growth I experienced in Japan. I eagerly anticipate applying the knowledge and understanding I have gained throughout my journey to foster connections between these two incredible cultures. By sharing my story, I hope to encourage others to appreciate the richness and diversity of the world around us, promoting a sense of understanding, respect, and inclusivity.

With my experiences serving as a foundation, the title “Bridging Cultures: My Journey from India to Japan” aptly reflects my personal and professional development. In our increasingly interconnected world, let’s strive to cultivate empathy and appreciation for the diverse cultures that contribute to our global community.

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